London: Macmillan and Co. 1894. Fifth edition. Exquisitely bound by Zaehnsdorf in an 1894 dated binding with their gilt exhibition stamp on the rear paste-down. Full brown morocco, with gilt title and gilt floral designs (rose bushes) on the boards and spine. Marbled end papers, all edges gilt. Very slight cracking near the crown professionally closed, one blank leaf excised, otherwise an excellent copy internally. Quite spectacular in the Zaehnsdorf exhibition binding.
Fitzgerald attributed the original work to the famed astronomer and mathematician Omar Khayyum, and this collection of quatrains rapidly became a favored text of the Pre-Raphaelites. "Like the Odyssey or the Vita Nuova [it] was once the most widely known and quoted work of Victorian poetry in the world," and its place in Western culture at the time was secured by Fitzgerald's "epigrammatic, sophisticated, often mordant verses [that] display Fitzgerald's adroitness in handling this stanza form" (Warner). Yet with rise of Modernism, the Rubaiyat fell out of style for a time, its lush and romantic orientalism considered out of step with the concerns of those who were living through a devastating World War. But the beautiful surviving copies in exceptional vellum, silk, and leather, alongside recently released critical editions, have helped draw attention back to the Rubaiyat's beauty and its role in inspiring so many monumental pieces of Victorian art and literature. (Item #2260)